Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill believes captain George Gregan needs more support from his senior players if the Wallabies are to retain their World Cup crown.
Gregan (right) has endured savage criticism
Gregan and coach Eddie Jones had come under fire even before Australia slipped to their fourth defeat in five Tests against New Zealand on Saturday.
The Tri-Nations loss saw the All Blacks regain the Bledisloe Cup and left the Wallabies with much work to do before their World Cup opener against Argentina on 10 October.
"George has been under a lot of pressure lately, so has (coach)
Eddie Jones, so has the team," O'Neill said.
"If you lose you're in strife. A couple of losses and the hole gets bigger, but we wholeheartedly endorse George as captain. He will be captain for the World Cup.
"But we need to build a stronger leadership team around him with the likes of Toutai Kefu, David Giffin, Elton Flatley. Phil Waugh is also emerging as a good leader and Joe Roff is coming back."
O'Neill pointed out that during their 1999 World Cup triumph, Australia could call on six captains in their ranks - Phil Kearns, John Eales, David Wilson, Jason Little and Tim Horan, plus Tiaan Strauss, a former Springboks captain.
"In total there were six blokes who had captained their country," O'Neill added.
"We don't have that in 2003, we've got George Gregan and we need
a few other blokes to step up to the mark with him."
O'Neill took heart from the performance in Auckland, and believes Australia will redsicover their old selves when the World Cup starts.
"I think the direction's a lot better," O'Neill added. "It was a very
respectable performance and a very courageous performance, although
a loss is still a loss.
"Come showtime we'll be an immensely better team than we've
shown in the past seven Tests. We'll be very competitive and won't let down the Australian fans."